THE regional government is to “bury” some roads in the Doñana National Park in a bid to cut the number of Iberian lynx killed by passing motorists in the nature reserve.
Environmentalists and animal protection groups called on the Junta de Andalucía to take action after the fifth animal this year died after being hit by a car.
The lynx, a male cub born this year, was run over on the A494 Mazagón-Matalascañas road in the park on September 22.
Now, the Environment department of the regional government has announced plans to send certain stretches of three roads that pass through Doñana underground and cover them with an elevated structure at a cost of 26 million euros.
Work to bury 16 kilometres of the busy A483 is expected to begin shortly. Four Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) are believed to have been killed on this road this year alone.
Stretches of the Villamanrique-Almonte road and the Matalascañas-Moguer road will also pass underground.
More than 100 kilometres of road in other parts of the national park will be fenced off to protect the endangered animal.
But both conservation groups WWF and Ecologistas en Accion have asked the Junta de Andalucía to also reduce the speed limit and crackdown on illegal building in Doñana, one of the few remaining areas the Iberian Lynx is found in the world.
Ecologistas en Accion claim an area of pine trees was cleared near the scene of the latest fatality for construction work.
“Less than a month ago work began to fell hundreds of pine trees to make way for a new housing estate near the A494 road,” said a group spokesman.
They are also asking regional government president Manuel Chaves to ensure the different departments of the Junta de Andalucía do more to protect the animal.
“The Public Works department of the Junta de Andalucía allows the construction of housing estates and the building of new roads in areas in which the lynx breeds and the Agriculture department permits the felling of pine trees for new plastic greenhouses.
“Yet the Environment department invests 26 million euros to protect the species,” he added.
According to the WWF, a road close to the one on which the lynx was killed last month was illegally built.
The Villamanrique de la Condesa-El Rocio track was asphalted by the Agriculture department of the regional government in 2001 for people making the annual pilgrimage to the latter village.
However, the conservation group claims an environmental impact assessment report was not completed nor was the European Commission notified before the work began. Now, traffic is increasing on the road with some drivers reaching speeds of 120 kilometres per hour.
“When will Spain wake up? We are witnessing the extinction of this animal due to the authorities’ inability to protect them,” said WWF spokesman Luis Suarez.
The Iberian Lynx, a member of the feline family, is already extinct in Portugal. Experts believe only between 150 and 160 remain in Spain.
In addition to the Doñana National Park, the animal is predominantly found in the eastern part of the Sierra Morena mountain range. Smaller colonies are believed to exist in the Extremadura region and in mountains near the city of Toledo.